Turpentine Creek helps rescue ‘Tiger King’ cats

Thursday, June 10, 2021
Chief was rescued from another Tiger King associate, Tim Stark, in September 2020. He loves his spacious habitat and the many toys and logs that keep him in touch with his natural instincts at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.
Submitted photo

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge (TCWR) recently helped the federal government to rescue 68 big cats from Jeffery (Jeff) and Lauren Lowe’s Tiger King Park, previously owned by so-called “Tiger King,” Joe Exotic.

In January, a federal judge ordered the Lowes to surrender all big cat cubs in their possession under the age of 1-year-old, as well as the mothers of the cubs, to the government, which has worked with sanctuaries and other animal welfare agencies to find safe homes for them. This comes after the judge “found that the United States had a likelihood of success on the merits of its claims that the Lowes had violated the Endangered Species Act, as well as the Animal Welfare Act.” 

A press release from the Department of Justice [DOJ] states that “failure to provide safe conditions, proper nutrition and timely veterinary care resulted in harm to a number of animals, including the death of two tiger cubs less than a week apart,” and that the Lowes had a “pattern and practice of providing substandard care” to animals at their park.

The release also notes that the Lowes put their animals in danger under the Animal Welfare Act by failing to have a qualified attending veterinarian employed at the park. 

In late May, the remaining big cats (of various ages and species) were seized after the Lowes were deemed non-compliant with court orders to increase the quality of care they were providing their animals. This followed three inspections since December 2020, which concluded the Lowes failed “to provide the animals with adequate or timely veterinary care, appropriate nutrition and shelter that protects them from inclement weather and is of sufficient size to allow them to engage in normal behavior.” 

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was contacted by the DOJ to assist in the rescue. Team members made two trips to Oklahoma, bringing back 13 animals total.

They assisted in the transport of eight animals to other GFAS-accredited sanctuaries and facilitated the placement of other felines at refuges within the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance [BCSA].

The BCSA is comprised of accredited sanctuaries who are working together to rescue big cats in need and advocate for the betterment of their futures. 

The 12 rescued animals — which include lions, tigers, a liger, a li-liger and a jaguar — are undergoing medical examinations by TCWR’s staff veterinarian.

TCWR president Tanya Smith, who has been silently working with the DOJ and BCPSA for months to facilitate the rescue, said she is grateful the animals are safe at proper facilities now. She views the court’s ruling and DOJ’s recent seizure as a win not only for the 68 big cats directly affected, but also for other big cats who may benefit from the precedent set by this case. 

To support the cost of the rescue, make a donation at tcwr.org/donate.

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